A young man’s journey through clinics and courts, through crime and depression

Zachary Barrantes

— From Facebook
Zachary Barrantes is alive and recovering in a Syracuse hospital after attempting suicide by jumping off a cliff at John Boyd Thacher State Park.

Zachary Barrantes, who is now 25, has been struggling for years with both physical and mental health problems. 

At 19, he developed Lyme disease.

That year, he experienced a panic attack, 9-1-1 was called, he was taken to the hospital and discharged but for months after, he still reported feeling short of breath. He then had an experience where he felt like his heart had stopped; he was prescribed three antibiotics and, after a year, reported that they seemed to have helped with his heart issues.

His mother, Daniela Filmer, reported to clinicians at Northern Rivers that her son was also experiencing sleep paralysis, extreme food sensitivity, and joint pain. In 2016, Zachary developed hand tremors and received a medical marijuana prescription that helped. 

The Northern Rivers clinicians’ impression of Zachary was that, due to complications from Lyme disease and his hand tremors, it had been “evident that Zach’s sense of managing his body” had led to a “hopelessness and depressed mood.” In addition, it appeared that Zachary’s “depression and sense of self also shifted and was present following the loss of his father, at the age 16.”

Zachary admitted to the clinician that he thought depression was something that had “been there my whole life.”

Zachary’s father was depressed and struggled with substance abuse; he died at 41 due to drug toxicity while being treated for depression at Four Winds Saratoga.

Clinicians at Northern Rivers, an organization that provides services to 16,000 children, adults, and families in 35 counties in upstate New York, said that some of Zachary’s behavior that had been observed by family and friends “may indicate prodromal symptoms of psychosis, but the current symptoms are subthreshold.” The clinicians determined that Zachary didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria for a primary psychotic disorder and was not admitted to the OnTrackNY program, which supports young people who experience symptoms of psychosis.

About three weeks after the Northern Rivers assessment, Zachary was brought in by the Colonie Police Department after he had walked out of the woods of the Watervliet Fish and Game Protective Association and “into the shooting pits, where the targets are hung during active range use,” according to the report filed by Colonie Police on July 9, 2017. 

Zachary had no recollection of riding his bike from his home in Delmar to Colonie, according to his mother. 

The police report states that there was a “strong possibility” that Zachary’s plan had been to walk in front of gunfire, but Zachary denied it; his mother had also had the same concern when police contacted her. 

Two days after the gun-range incident, on July 11, 2017, Zachary was admitted as an involuntary patient to Albany Medical Center’s Psychiatry Department, according to his mother. 

Over the next couple of weeks, members of Zachary’s family wrote letters to hospital staff, asking that Zachary not be released because he remained “an imminent danger to himself.” Filmer even wrote to say that she was “not comfortable with being his discharging resource.”

On July 27, 2017, hospital staff decided “we do not see imminent safety concerns that need to be addressed [by the] inpatient psychiatric unit,” and discharged Zachary. 

After signing his own discharge papers, according to his mother, Zachary “ended up running away from his brother and sister” and hopped on a bus and rode it to South Pearl Street in Albany, near the Department of Motor Vehicles, entered the Capital City Rescue Mission, exited a few minutes later, and wasn’t heard from until a couple of days later.

On July 29, 2017, he crashed into another car, in Clifton Park; according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Zachary “overtook several vehicles on the right shoulder, passed a red light, and collided with a 2002 Ford Focus.”

He was cited for “speed not reasonable and prudent, passing a red light, overtaking on the right, reckless driving, and disobeying a traffic control device,” according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office.

On Aug. 3, 2017, Zachary was charged with possession of stolen property — the Chevrolet Malibu he had been driving when he got into the accident —  and reckless endangerment. He would spend 74 days in Saratoga County Jail, according to Filmer, and was sent to the McPike Addiction Treatment Center in Utica upon release in October 2017.

It was at the McPike Addiction Treatment Center, according to Filmer, that her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“And now as a result of that accident, a kid who was never ever in trouble with the law, a kid who has been eternally sad since his father died at the age of 41 while being treated for depression at Four Winds in Saratoga, a kid who has struggled with chronic illness — Lyme disease — is now a TWICE convicted FELON as a result of his unsafe discharge, and now if he violates his probation, no matter what, even if the judge doesn't agree with the sentence it will be a mandatory SEVEN YEARS in a STATE PRISON,” Filmer wrote to The Enterprise over Facebook Messenger.

Filmer said that she plans to petition Judge Paul Morgan for guardianship of her son. “If I cant be granted that after this 3rd suicide attempt I will be very surprised,” she wrote.

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